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Cover art forCan’t Even: How Millenials Became the Burnout Generation

Can’t Even: How Millenials Became the Burnout Generation

Anne Helen Petersen

Started Reading
Nov 08, 2020
Finished Reading
Nov 09, 2020

I’m glad I read Fear of Falling earlier this year (after Anne Helen Petersen mentioned it on Twitter, if I’m remembering correctly). Anne Helen Petersen is one of my absolute favorite writers1 right now; her writing exposes a lot of extremely frustrating structural reasons why everyone is living in the precariat, without feeling like there’s no hope for change.

For me the most powerful part of the book is how it takes different contributors to burnout—student debt, gig economy jobs, vampire technology—and shows how none of those effects are accidental. The crushing effects of these social, political, and technological forces are the result of decisions and actions (like tax cuts, legislation to destroy unions, or simple corporate greed) that go back decades, if not longer.

A friend of mine mentioned how the conclusion felt a bit incomplete, and I think that’s fair. Petersen is up front about wanting to avoid broad prescriptive proclamations in her book, but I did find myself wishing that Petersen spent a bit more time in the conclusion talking about different ways for collective action, beyond a short paragraph on voting. I found myself thinking about how our culture of individualism actively works against us finding the mutual aid and collective action we need to survive and thrive.

  1. Her newsletter, Culture Study, is well worth your time and money. ↩︎